14 killed in Mumbai pub fire

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 30 Dec 2017 08:33:44


Our Correspondent and Agencies MUMBAI,

Among the dead was Khushbu Bansali, who was celebrating her 29th birthday

The blaze started around 12.30 a.m. from two rooftop restaurants and engulfed the entire building in 30 minutes

Owners of both restaurants booked, five BMC officials suspended

CM orders probe, assures strict action against guilty

FOURTEEN persons, including a young woman celebrating her birthday, died from breathing toxic fumes and at least 55 others were injured in a major fire that engulfed a pub and other establishments here early on Friday.
While the majority of the victims have died on the spot, the firemen were able to rescue 10 people safely.

The blaze was noticed around 12.30 a.m. from ‘The Mojo Bistro’ and ‘1Above’, both rooftop restaurants in The Kamla Trade House, a posh business-cum-entertainment hub in Lower Parel area of south Mumbai housing several offices including national television channels.

From ‘1 Above’, the fire spread to Mojo pub on the third floor, one level below, said an official of the Mumbai civic body, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Among the dead was Khushbu Bansali who was celebrating her 29th birthday and 10 other women. The massive blaze engulfed the entire building in about 30 minutes and took several hours to be put out. The cause of the fire is not known yet.

Dr Sulbha KG Arora, a Mumbai doctor, told NDTV news channel that she was at the ‘1 Above’ restaurant. “There was no time for anyone to reach out because the fire spread so rapidly. The staff members of the restaurant were trying to help the customers as much as possible,” she said. “There was a stampede and someone pushed me. People were running over me even as the ceiling above me was collapsing in flames,” she said separately in a tweet. “Still don’t know how I got out alive.”

Teams of fire brigade and police rushed to the spot and initially 35 injured people were pulled out from inside the pub and taken to hospital.

Several media outlets, including TV news channels Times Now, ET Now and TV9 Marathi, have offices in the Kamala Mills compound. Employees of news channels had a narrow escape. “I was in the night shift. We heard people screaming at the pub. Initially, we thought it is due to the party which was underway there,” said Sanjay Jadhav, a programme producer of a news channel. “When I came out of my office, I saw that a fire has broken out at the roof-top pub. The main entrance of our office was blocked due to the flames,” he said. Khushbu Bansali’s grandfather, Babulal Mehta, blamed the “irresponsible” hotel management and the civic authorities.

“The hotel had put up a temporary structure supported by bamboo, with the possibility of catching fire. There was no fire extinguishing facility either. It is the responsibility of the police and civic authorities to act against any violations,” he said.

Police have booked Hratesh Sanghvi, Jigar Sanghvi and Abhijeet Mankar of C Grade Hospitality which manages the pub, along with others, under various charges including culpable homicide not amounting to murder. DCP Virendra Mishra told PTI that so far nobody has been arrested, and “look-out notice” will be issued for the accused. They are also charged under IPC sections 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others).

The civic body has suspended five officials for dereliction of duty. There are allegations that civic authorities turned a blind eye to construction irregularities and violation of fire safety norms in the compound.
According to civic officials, the BMC had issued licence for the ‘1 Above’ pub in the name of Kripesh Sanghvi and Abhijeet Mankar, while that for ‘Mojo’ pub was issued in the name of Yug Pathak. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind expressed anguish over the tragedy.

“Anguished by the fire in Mumbai. My thoughts are with the bereaved families in this hour of grief. I pray that those injured recover quickly,” the Prime Minister’s Office tweeted. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis Fadnavis, who visited the site this afternoon, also expressed grief, and said he has directed the BMC Commissioner to conduct an inquiry. Action would be taken against errant civic officials as well as owners of the pub, he said, while also ordering safety audit of such structures across the city and demolition of illegal structures.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi, tweeting in Marathi, expressed grief and demanded immediate inquiry into the “unfortunate” incident.
BJP MP Kirit Somaiya said he had asked Fadnavis and the BMC commissioner to order a special fire audit of all such pubs and ‘hooka parlours’ in Mumbai.

The pub and the surrounding complex was full of patrons, including many women and tourists with an estimated 400-plus thronging the fashionable area to unwind. Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, alleging corruption in the BMC, demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the tragedy.

Blaming the BMC, Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam sought stringent action against those responsible for allowing the eateries to function despite rules being blatantly flouted. Quoting a friend who witnessed the conflagration, Congress legislator Nitesh Rane claimed that a hookah parlour caused the blaze and not a short-circuit as speculated. He added that ‘Mojo’ and another restaurant are only issued food licences, but not for serving hookahs to customers.